Hot Air Balloons
Posted On June 11, 2020
I drove into work. Off in the distance, there painted in the sky was a memory. Maybe not painted so much as dotted. There were specks of bright colored silk scattered in the distance contrasted by the dark silhouette of the foothills behind them.
On early summer mornings it’s not unusual to see hot air balloons at varying levels of elevation rising above the reservoir as adventurous souls launch themselves into the air.
Although I lived not far from this reservoir until I was five, it’s not really clear if this memory is from those early days, or simply the summertime visits to see my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. I guess it really doesn’t matter. It’s the feeling that those balloons evoke that is important.
There’s something majestic in their nature. They seem so still. They appear to be static hovering quietly over the world. There’s a sense of calm in watching them in the vastness of the sky.
While my head knows that they are moving. Knows that the balloon crew is making adjustments, calculating wind speeds, altitudes and air temps. Knows that the chase crew is watching the progress following it in order to meet the balloon for a successful landing. I simply am taken in by the appearance of stillness. I’m consumed by the desire for that sense of peace. That sense of stability and the silence.
It seems that these balloons are similar to our lives. In order to lift off, to reach that place of calm, the crew must first make preparations. They must check that everything is in order. They must inflate the balloon with a fan and then fire the burners.
While I’ve never actually been in a hot air balloon, I imagine that this preparation phase is loud. I’m sure there’s a level of urgency in the preflight checks. With an experienced crew, I’m sure it is done with efficiency and confidence. With a crew in training, or brand new passengers, it may feel a little more frantic and uncertain.
There are so many parts of our lives that mimic this preparation phase. Regardless of the task, the event, the moment in our life, there’s a level of preparation that makes that experience easier. There are people along the way that can coach us, and help us learn the ropes. There are moments when we must try our hand at something new, trusting that we’ve learned enough from our mentors to make adjustments along the way.
There is the noise from those start up moments. Sometimes it’s the noise of doubt – either doubt in our own heads or doubt from those around us. Questions of whether what we’re doing can be or should be done.
Yet, when we trust in the process, we can be rewarded. As a hot air balloon reaches certain altitudes, Mother Nature takes over. There is quiet – a quiet and a calm.
With practice and intentionality, we can tune into our lives. We can let “Mother Nature” take over and find a sense of peace and calm.
Air currents are invisible. They can unexpectedly alter the balloons progress and path. In life, certain things will happen that alter our progress and path. When a current changes, the balloon crew makes adjustments. Occasionally releasing hot air through the vent, or firing the burners. There is noise in that. There is focused movement. Then there is stillness. There is quiet. The hustle and bustle is silenced. The demands of being anywhere but fully present no longer as demanding.
Of course this is all how I imagine it to be, based on my very scientific observation and some light reading on ballooning. Whether my metaphor is completely correct or not, I think there’s a lesson to be learned.
We must be the balloon pilots of our lives. We must be aware of the conditions. We must be willing to do the preflight checks and the post flight maintenance. We must educate ourselves and be our best versions of ourselves to remain safe and to be able to enjoy the ride. Yet, we must also be willing to let go. To go where the winds take us. To make adjustments when things get a little sketchy, but enjoy the invisible course and respond to the ups and downs, but only when necessary. To listen to the silence and the stillness – to the message it may be offering. It is then that we truly open ourselves to the wonders that exist when we are truly present.